Will Wright and Brian Eno – “Playing with Time”

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 02006 by Simone Davalos
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Brian Eno and Will Wright

Generative play

In a dazzling duet Will Wright and Brian Eno gave an intense clinic on the joys and techniques of “generative” creation.

Back in the 1970s both speakers got hooked by cellular automata such as Conway’s “Game of Life,” where just a few simple rules could unleash profoundly unpredictable and infinitely varied dynamic patterns. Cellular automata were the secret ingredient of Wright’s genre-busting computer game “SimCity” in 1989. Eno was additionally inspired by Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain,” in which two identical 1.8 second tape loops beat against each other out of phase for a riveting 20 minutes. That idea led to Eno’s “Music for Airports” (1978), and the genre he named “ambient music” was born.

Wright observed that science is all about compressing reality to minimal rule sets, but generative creation goes the opposite direction…

Read the rest of Stewart Brand’s Summary

  • john bates

    Wow, what a great seminar.
    I was wondering what was the 2 software programs that Will Wright was using. One was a used for Cellular automata. the other one was about computer painting/drawing/coloring.
    Do you know what they were called?

  • Wayne P.

    I have been looking for that program also. I finally found it at:


    It’s called MCELL. Enjoy,


  • What is the name of the software will wright used that was painting pictures and colors of people? Is it the same MCell or is there another one? I thought the person’s name was Curtswell or Cristwell or something.. anyone know?

  • for the name of that software you should ask it to my friend Davide Bocelli ( from the long now foundation )
    you can find his mail in this site or fid him on facebook and make a friend request.. i also asked him and i think he had an answer..


    Alex Spagnoli

  • best blog i ever seen about this article! This is a very informative post. this will help me in my personal life and my works in dubai.

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  • composer

    Speaking of slowing things down after they’re composed, and slow music in general (apt for The Long Now; thanks to Metafilter):


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  • Thanks man, this is a good piece of work. I have already started using it.